Caltrain

Well, it’s probably not that good of a fancy shape-decorated-cake, but I’m thinking it might be the best Caltrain-shaped cake ever.

Happy birthday, Norah.

Oh, really?

From a New York Times story this morning; highlights mine:

The United States Energy Information Administration released a report on Tuesday that said China now accounts for 47 percent of global coal consumption, almost equal to all other countries in the world combined.

Quiet Night

It’s almost 1am, the baby has stopped screaming, the dogs are sacked out, and I need some toothpicks for my own eyelids. All around the house, boxes are piled to the rafters — we purchased 106 in total and have only three still empty, held in reserve — and strategically stacked, making something of a giant cardboard maze.

It is Moving Eve.

We’ve enjoyed something like 80 months in this trusty chalet on the Ridge, and now it is time to move on. Perhaps not unlike your own most recent six years, we, too, have experienced highs and lows with amplitude beyond what we could have imagined or hoped for or expected. We have poured a lot of energy and love into making this place Home, and it still feels like that, to me, even as the decorations are mostly all wrapped away in air bubbles and confined to cubic containment.

I will miss the Ridge. We picked this place. It is the first one that we chose to live in on the merits of the geography, the culture, and the locality. All of our other homes — good and bad — were dictated to us by family, education, or jobs. It’s likely we’ll never again live in such a small town with such a combination of altitude and attitude.

Maybe I should be fairer with you, Dear Readers. After all, this is just a wooden and styrofoam structure, on a chunk of dirt, with a nice view and some sunshine and fresh air. I don’t mean to devolve this post into schmaltz and saccharine. But… I will remember this Home, forever.

See you in the next chapter.

Death by Papercuts

I’m sure some of you are using the wonderful, free Google Reader right now. This tool, like others, consolidates multiple blog syndication feeds into one convenient place, so you don’t have to go around and visit each individual site tediously each day that you want to read. These aggregators make it possible to subscribe to ten or more times as many blogs — especially low-frequency ones — and still catch every post.

Reader rolled out a new UI today, and it made an already-bad problem worse. To the left I have embedded a screen shot to illustrate the problem. What you are seeing is a thin vertical sliver of my desktop with Reader open at 150% zoom in Google’s own browser, Chrome. I use 150% zoom because it hurts my eyes to read text that’s much smaller, and it’s worth noting right up front that this exacerbates the problem I’m about to describe. (If you always read at 100%, that’s fine — the problem is still there, but a bit less markedly so.) I have shrunken the image by half to make it fit better in this blog post, but click on it if you want to see it at original size.

My laptop screen is 1,200 pixels tall. Let’s do a little accounting:

    • The OS X menu bar takes up 20 pixels. (Not shown in the screen shot.)
    • Chrome’s frame, tabs, and omnibar use 72 pixels.
    • The Google Account bar consumes 42 pixels.
    • The giant Search box, Google logo, and its related controls eat 90 pixels.
    • The second panel of controls hogs 106 pixels.
    • The title text of whatever blog or category you’re reading uses 50 pixels.
    • Then you get to the actual content.
    • Finally, the browser status bar is 20 pixels tall.

    All of those measures are give or take one or two pixels, but it’s safe to sum them and calculate this horrendeous result: 400 pixels. That’s right, folks, fully one third of my 1,200 precious, expensive display pixels are being consumed with UI in an app that is specifically devoted to, err, reading. Now, you folks with smaller laptop screens are much more likely to have something closer to 900 or 1,050 pixels. On a MacBook Air, where pixel pitch means it is even more important to use browser-zoom to avoid eye strain, you could well devote almost half of your screen to the controls.

    Some controls are good. I also applaud the design team that is striving for clarity and a clean UI by making it more open feeling and less like a rocket control-panel with lots of buttons and gizmos. The problem is, Reader is really easy to learn, and anyone who is adept enough to employ an RSS aggregator is probably going to be a quick study on the four or five day-to-day commands (with keyboard equivalents, no less) needed to chew through large volumes of blog posts. So, I think part of the problem here is that there’s no way to put the thing into an experienced-user mode. It would be great if we could collapse away all the controls and just get a full, top-to-bottom-of-browser reading panel.

    It feels like one of those all-too-common situations where the design team and the product managers forgot to talk to the customer. Who knows — maybe this is how they talk to us, by rolling this UI out and seeing how many people complain.

    Here’s the official lodging of mine, anyway.

    Yay, All Hallow’s Eve

    Well, they’re not in this post yet, because we haven’t lit ‘em up. And we have to make sure Norah doesn’t stab herself with the Real Knives being used as props, so it’ll take some staging.

    But, Happy Halloween anyway!

    Little pumpkins…

    Big pumpkins with Norah Sandwich…